North Ireland – The Region

Westward Ho! Bengore Head from Ballintoy.

Cruising northward from Carlingford Lough, the impressive bulk of the Cooley and Mourne Mountains dominate the view to the north and west. The highest peak of the Mourne Mountains is Slieve Donard at 850m (2,789ft).

Carlingford Marina provides a useful stopping place. The lough also forms the boundary between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

In Strangford Lough, small marinas at Ardglass and Portaferry, supplemented by visitor berths at Strangford village, Quoile River, and moorings at Whiterock and Ballydorn complete the facilities in this sheltered waterway.

The east Down coast between Strangford and and Belfast Loughs does not offer much in the way of yachting orientated harbours, as Portavogie is dominated by its fishing fleet. Donaghadee, however, has a good visitor’s berth beside the lighthouse with a good view of the Copeland Islands.

Belfast Lough has excellent marinas on either shore at Bangor and Carrickfergus, and there are now 40 berths in Belfast port for leisure craft in the Abercorn Basin.

North from Belfast Lough lie the beautiful Glens of Antrim and the sheltered bays at Glenarm, Red Bay, Cushendall and Cushendun. As one sails north past The Maidens and Torr Head, the headlands become more dominant and the tides stronger until one turns the corner at Fair Head, an unmistakable 180m (600ft) promontory overlooking the Mull of Kintyre and Rathlin Island.

On heading west from Fair Head to Bloody Foreland, ports on this stretch include Ballycastle, Portrush, Coleraine on the river Bann, Greencastle, and Derry/Londonderry.

The transition from the relatively sheltered North Channel Waters to the open ocean as one progresses westward, together with vigorous tidal streams as far west as Inishtrahull, requires careful passage planning to make a comfortable passage to Bloody Foreland.

The Donegal Coast may be only 80 miles long, but it offers some spectacular coastal scenery, the opportunity for very fast or very slow passages depending on conditions, and a mixture of convenient stopping points and many sheltered havens, including Inishtrahull, Lough Swilly, Mulroy Bay, Broadhaven, Downings, and Tory Island.

St John’s Point and the Mountains of Mourne.